A quick note before I start: This article is a bit more emotional and might be distressing to some readers. I don’t normally write articles like this, but sometimes you just need to talk about some things.
I’ve been having nightmares the last few days. I don’t normally have nightmares and rarely are they ever recurring ones. A thread on r/askreddit changed that, when I stumbled into a post about ‘disruptive’ children being ‘sent off’. I knew that sending kids away to ‘private schools’ and ‘wilderness clubs’ and things like that were a thing, after all I remember adverts for it on TV back when I was little. But I never realised how bad these things were. Even in supposedly developed nations.
The post that stood out the most was a single link to a website called elan.school. This website is a web comic with 29 chapters (as of writing) talking about one guy desperately trying to survive and escape from what was essentially a cult that destroyed the minds of teenagers. Normally not something that would bother me… except that everything in the comic is true.
Elan School was a private institution that closed down until 2011. According to Wikipedia, “Élan School” was a private, coeducational, controversial residential behavior modification program and therapeutic boarding school (beginning with 8th grade and extending beyond high school completion) in Poland, Androscoggin County, Maine.
Elan School was also basically a cult that tortured children and would force them to fight each other. That might sound extreme, but that is how the web comic and Joe, the comic’s creator, vividly describes it. It’s not just one person though, it’s lots of people. On his website, Joe has a long, long list of articles and videos providing evidence about this school.
Sure, there are plenty of other people who will happily claim that this school saved their lives. But that seems hard to believe considering just how extreme those who hated this institution were. On the one hand, you have people who think they wouldn’t have survived without Elan School but on the other, you have people talking about being thrown into boxing matches, being shouted at by hundreds of other people, being forced to scrub for hours on end.
And the latter is backed up by people speaking in court. During the trial of one Micheal Skakal, someone who went to Elan School, people testified about the conditions of the school. According to the NY Times, “Tatiana Karam, 21, who attended Elan from 1996 to 1998, said she witnessed three or four boxing sessions, or ”rings” as they are known, and said she saw a student placed in a corner in plastic restraints for so long that she became malnourished and was sent to the hospital.”
That is pretty fucked up. Thankfully the school was closed, but how many children went through that place? Goodness knows how many. Most of them would probably rather not talk about it.
But you know the terrifying things?
Firstly, that school made a lot of money.
Secondly, the whole scenario of being taken by mysterious men then forced to go to a behavioral program is legal. In the US at least. Should your parents think you are too ‘at risk’, they can sign your rights away and have you hauled off in the middle of the night. Where you might end up, who knows. In fact, many of these facilities ARE NOT EVEN REGULATED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT!
Not even regulated. Which is why Elan School lasted for so long. Aside from the fact it was making money. Elan wasn’t even alone in mistreatment, there were similar schools like Casa By The Sea and Excel Academy. It’s definitely possible that there are still “therapeutic boarding schools” doing this today.
Sure, it’s unlikely that such a horrible situation could happen to me, a little, quiet 27 year old woman living on an island in the Med. But this can happen to people under the age of 18 in the US, and most likely other less developed countries too.
I am so sorry, all of you poor people who were put through these horrible things.